By Gary Symons
TLL Editor in Chief
If you want to grow your licensing opportunities, Christopher Palumbo would argue you might want to check out the people who know the most about growing, namely, farmers.
Palumbo is an officer and one of the founders at Goldenberry Farms, a fascinating experiment in sustainable agriculture that has grown at a blistering pace since it was founded just a few years ago.
Goldenberry Farms now has 12 large producing fruit farms in Latin America and the Caribbean. The company, known for high-quality sustainable farming, sells its brand of produce across Europe and North America in more than 18 retail and grocery channels.
By Q4 2024, Goldenberry expects to have four more farms in operation, growing to meet soaring demand for its unique products.
Goldenberry is seeking to leverage the popularity of its brand and the grocer presence with a robust licensing program, seeking consumer products, home goods, and related items.
“We are officially starting our licensing program this year, because we believe that the IP and the reputation of Goldenberry Farms lends itself well to many other household items,” Palumbo explains. “For example, ‘At Home with Goldenberry Farms’ is a proposed collection of kitchenware, and also products for gardening.
Goldenberry: Where Good Things Grow
“As a leading sustainable grower, we have a real leadership story to tell about sustainability, about being environmentally responsible, and about growing and eating healthier food,” he adds. “I think it’s a lovely story to tell for licensing partners, and that the brand really lends itself well to licensing because of our background.”
In a time when consumers are looking for products that are healthier, sustainable, and also are grown in a socially responsible way, Goldenberry Farms is a brand ready-made for licensing.
The brand, named for the Goldenberry, a superfruit which grows in Latin America, the agriculture company was born from the simple idea of investing not just to earn revenue, but to improve all of the touch points of the growing chain.
“Goldenberry Farms started as just that, a farm, and also as a socially forward investment into Latin America,” says Palumbo, a serial entrepreneur with several successes under his belt. “This all began with a social impact experiment involving a group of three professional investors, whose idea was to do an investment that created something good in the world, and that was socially responsible.”
The initial goal was to invest in a farming operation in a rural, disadvantaged areas near Medellin, Colombia, while also also creating healthy, sustainable products.“ The company developed the mantra ‘where good things grow’, and the idea was, let’s do good. Let’s do good for the ground and the soil, for the people of the region, for every touchpoint of this product. Let’s try to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
“We designed this brand from the ground up as a ‘do good’ farming brand, and from day one, we set out to be the leading sustainable farmer of tropical fruit,” Palumbo adds. “We had noticed there was not a lot of sustainability nor social standards in place.”
Goldenberry Looking for Partners in Sustainability
Once the farms were operational, the company invested to expand its soil science programs, designed around the tenets of regenerative agriculture. The “Good Things Grow” soil science program was initially inspired by “Kiss the Ground,” a Netflix documentary on soil health hosted by Woody Harrelson, which focuses on soil rehabilitation as a viable solution to averting a climate and food crisis.
Goldenberry Farms uses reduced tilling, reduces use of nitrogen fertilizers (which are a major source of greenhouse gases), introduces ‘cover crops’, and prioritizes the preservation of animal and plant diversity in and around the farms, which results in water use reduction, as well as healthier fruit with a more resilient shelf life.
Goldenberry Farms also decided early on that it wouldn’t try to compete head to head with large multinational companies that already dominated the market for more common fruits like bananas, lemons or oranges. Instead, the group focused on unique fruits that aren’t common in Europe or North America, but that offer great flavor and well-established health benefits.
“I would say we got into this leading position because we specialize in tropical fruit that’s lesser known, and as a company, we have a very good aptitude for marketing,” Palumbo says. “If we had started the farm with bananas or oranges, we would have never been able to knock on the doors of the type of retailers that we can with these little goldenberries and rambutans.”
Goldenberry has even developed their own branded products, such as the Sweet Sugar Mango, a smaller and sweeter miniature mango, for which Goldenberry owns the trademarks in multiple countries.
Goldenberry has also been very innovative in how they market their fruit to markets, such as the case of RAMBOOS (rambutan) winning the Produce Innovation Award for best new product. The “Ramboos” character-based line focuses on children as the decision maker and on family-friendly fruit presentations, supported by full in-store merchandising and QR codes showing how to enjoy the fruit. To complete the RAMBOOS 2023 launch, Goldenberry created their own video game for kids 5 and older, as a friendly, fun introduction to the world of tropical fruit, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Goldenberry Bringing Exotic Fruits to Europe, NA Markets
“What we’ve discovered is that, if a child was asking for something that was healthy, there was a 91% likelihood that the parents would make the purchase. Further research that shows for every 30 seconds a consumer stays in the produce section, they tend to increase their purchases. If you can entertain someone for a few mo- ments in the produce section, you’re going to help the grocer sell more of not just your product, but of their other products as well.”
Both grocers and consumers have responded, which Palumbo says is part of a long-term trend of consumers wanting both more variety and a transparent connection with the grower in the food they buy.
“We have noticed since COVID, a surge in consumers wanting ‘better for you’ products, especially colorful produce and food which people perceive to be healthier options,” Palumbo says. “We have QR codes on many of our exotic fruit to show customers more about the fruit, its ‘story’, nutritional profile, and most importantly how to enjoy it. We have almost a 7% click- through rate which is extremely encouraging, because it is showing us that people have a real interest in exploring new fruit, food, and healthy product options.“
That approach to making the grocer a partner has made Goldenberry Farms a welcome brand in supermarkets around the world. In fact, their products are often front and center at the entrance to the supermarket or the produce section, something Palumbo says is important for licensing partners as well.
“Having started with berries, we’ve achieved a prominent presence in major grocers, and as you know the berries are displayed in the front of the grocery store,” he explains. “When you have that kind of shelf presence in the front of major grocers, you immediately have something to offer in terms of a licensor because there’s many products that would love to be in the grocery store, but they maybe don’t have quite the backstory or the sphere of social responsibility that Goldenberry has.
“The point we’re making as we move into licensing is that we have the sales, the brand recognition, the shelf presence, and most of all the compelling back story to be a great partner for anyone who wants to be connected with healthy, sustainable food, grown in a socially responsible way.”
Goldenberry’s executive team has experience in product and brand licensing, potential partnerships have been a conversation point for the brand right from the beginning.
“Because our team has worked in licensing, we understand how the industry works and what types of products are open to licensing,” Palumbo says. “I would say Goldenberry Farms is taking a dual approach to licensing, because we are looking at co-branding opportunities as well as joint ventures, creating new products with partners.”
An early example of that is the company’s collaboration with Dolci Frutta from Saco Foods, the popular at-home chocolate dipping kit, to sweeten up the produce section.
GF Seeking Licensing Partners to ‘Grow Together’
Dolci has been turning fruit such as strawberries into fun snacks for over two decades, and now has a new twist with chocolate-dipped goldenberries. The fruit is particularly well suited to the new product line, because the physalis (goldenberries with leaves) do not need to be refrigerated in the same way that peeled goldenberries do. Grocers are able to merchandise the items side-by-side, coupled with seasonal promotions, to drive sales and at-home cooking fun.
“The attractiveness of Goldenberry Farms is that, in the world of food, we are very different,” Palumbo says. “We distribute fruits that are new and attractive to many people, and we also have our own very unique IP like our Sweet Sugar Mango that, after three years, we were able to import for the first time this year into the United States. The initial season was a strong success, even making it to the pages of The New York Times.
“Sugar Mangos are a special product; they are ‘small, sweet, and easy to eat’,” Palumbo says. “The initial response to this exclusive product from retailers had been overwhelming for the fledgling grower, the company has been investing to grow all aspects of the program and season.”
“Since we own the Sweet Sugar Mango and related trademarks,this product becomes a brand that can be marketed independently as well,” he adds. “We envision a Sugar Mango as a flavoring, a color, as a fragrance, as a candy, or even as a Sugar Mango scented candle.“Goldenberry Farms is more than just a farming company because it owns a subset of brands based around beautifully curated fruit that we have uniquely developed.”
Looking to grow your licensed business?
Goldenberry Farms is looking for connections both with potential licensees, but also with licensing agents with experience in food and beverage licensing. For more information regarding licensing opportunities with Goldenberry Farms, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org